North Carolina has its home opener Saturday afternoon against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders of Conference USA. The Heels will look to avenge their first loss on the road at South Carolina, when the Heels gave up 27 points to the then sixth ranked team in the country. In that USC game, the Tar Heel offense struggled to find a rhythm against the talented Gamecock defensive attack. UNC only had three drives with more than eight plays in them, and also had three “three and outs.” That performance specifically on offense leaves plenty of room for improvement. The Heels also need to improve on their red zone efficiency; the Heels struggled against the Gamecocks trying to score touchdowns while deep in enemy territory. Sustaining drives and scoring points in the redzone are two keys to UNC’s offense this Saturday. Here are three others.
Feed the playmakers
UNC has some extremely talented skill position players this season, and they should look to get the ball in their hands a lot more this game. Eric Ebron, UNC’s stud tight end, only had 3 receptions for 32 yards in the first game of the season, and Quinshad Davis, sophomore wideout, had only four catches. Bryn Renner has to make an effort to feed these guys the ball. They are very talented and can turn a simple 10 yard route into a big play. Davis had one carry for 2 yards, but I would also like to see him in motion attacking the defense via running the ball a lot more. Feed Davis on jet sweeps and screen passes, and let Ebron bull doze over people in the secondary against MTSU. If UNC finds a way to let these guys do what they do, the day will be easier for Bryn Renner and the rest of the Tar Heel offense.
Protect the football
UNC has to be careful not to play down to their opponent against Middle Tennessee State. Playing down could lead to lots of sloppy turnovers, and those turnovers could eventually lead to an upset. UNC has to protect the football and give themselves a chance on offense; giving up a pair of interceptions or fumbles would really hurt the team. Protecting the football is always a key to victory, but UNC has to avoid making the mental mistakes themselves. Against a team like South Carolina, turnovers are more likely to be caused by a talented defensive player or a great play than against a Conference USA school. If UNC was to give up 3 or 4 turnovers on Saturday, its a good chance that they would all be Carolina’s fault. Avoiding mental errors and protecting the football are both important important keys to victory.
Establish the Run
UNC never really attacked South Carolina’s front four with the running game last weekend, only putting up 99 yards on the ground. UNC should want to use the run to open up the passing game, and the Heels should also make sure they stick with the run all throughout the game. MTSU’s defense is less talented than South Carolina’s, so it will be easier to run the ball in game two. Establishing the run is a major key to victory, because UNC can’t settle back into a passing shootout against the Blue Raiders. Run the ball, eat the clock, and tire out the defense by running it right down their throat. If the Tar Heels do all of these three things, they should bring home the “W” against MTSU.